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Decision No. 1121

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October 30 2009
In Re: Review of a Decision of Law by Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference as to whether the Choice Empowerment apportionment paradigm adopted in 2004 and still in effect in the annual conference is in violation of ¶ 247.14.

Digest of Case

Each local church is obligated to pay the amounts apportioned to it for World Service, conference benevolences and other general church, jurisdictional and annual conference funds. Payment in full of these apportionments by local churches is the first benevolent responsibility of the church. The bishop’s decision of law is affirmed.

Statement of Facts

During the 2009 session of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference, the presiding bishop received a written request for a bishop’s decision of law from the Conference Council on Finance and Administration. At its 2004 session, the Western North Carolina Annual Conference adopted a quadrennial budget plan that addressed several financial issues related to apportionments. Included in the plan was a paradigm called “Choice Empowerment” that was designed to address the negative impact of apportionments on local churches and a “sense of defeat and in some cases, division”. Subsequent sessions of the Annual Conference endorsed and supported the action as the plan and guide for local churches. The written request submitted to the bishop by the Conference Council on Finance and Administration is as follows:

“The Choice Empowerment paradigm has been the effective policy of this annual conference since [the 2004] session of the conference. Is “Choice Empowerment’ as approved by the 2004 session of the annual conference, in violation of Paragraph 247.14 of the 2008 Book of Discipline?”
The bishop took the question under advisement and submitted his decision of law to the Judicial Council for its review. The bishop’s decision of law examined the provisions of ¶ 247.14 of the Discipline and concluded that the apportionment paradigm known as “Choice Empowerment” is a violation of the iscipline.
Jurisdiction
The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under ¶ 2609 of the 2008 Discipline.
Analysis and Rationale
Paragraph 247.14 of the 2008 Discipline states the following:
As soon as practicable after the session of annual conference, each district superintendent or designated agent shall notify each local church in the district what amounts have been apportioned to it for World Service, conference benevolences and other general Church, jurisdictional, and annual conference funds. In preparation for and at the charge conference, it shall be the responsibility of the district superintendent, the pastor, and the lay member(s) of the annual conference and/or the church lay leader(s) to interpret to each charge conference the importance of these apportioned funds, explaining the causes supported by each of them and their place in the total program of the Church. The World Service Fund is basic in the financial program of The United Methodist Church. World Service on apportionment represents the minimum needs for the mission and ministry of the Church. Conference benevolences represent the minimum needs for mission and ministry in the annual conference. >b>Payment in full of these apportionments by local churches is the first benevolent responsibility of the church (¶ 812).(emphasis added)
Paragraph 247.14 of the Discipline assigns to each district superintendent the responsibility to notify each local Church of the amounts apportioned to it for World Service, conference benevolences and other general Church, jurisdictional and annual conference funds. Paragraph 247.14 provides that payment in full of the apportionments specified to local churches is the first benevolent responsibility of the church. See also ¶ 812 of the Discipline. According to the bishop’s decision, the net effect of Choice Empowerment has been to give local churches within the Western North Carolina Annual Conference permission not to pay certain apportioned items or to shift funds to other apportioned line items. The bishop further noted that the five-year impact of Choice Empowerment has been a substantial decline in connectional support of apportionments. One of the basic principles of The United Methodist Church’s connectional system is to provide ministries and outreach in ways and places that individual churches are not able to do alone. This philosophy is built upon a belief in shared responsibility for the extension of mission and ministry of the whole church to the world. Choice Empowerment as adopted by the 2004 Western North Carolina Annual Conference is a violation of ¶ 247.14 of the Discipline.

Decision

Each local church is obligated to pay the amounts apportioned to it for World Service, conference benevolences and other general church, jurisdictional and annual conference funds. Payment in full of these apportionments by local churches is the first benevolent responsibility of the church. The bishop’s decision of law is affirmed.

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